Harriet Bass, child care officer at the Directorate of Children Affairs under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Affairs has reaffirmed the government’s commitment towards the protection of women and children, arguing that ethical reporting on women and children issues remains a challenge in the country.
“Children and women’s rights are often violated in the mainstream media and both traditional and digital. This is due to the gap of professional capacity of journalists which needs to be strengthened. The lack of sufficient knowledge about the issue of children and women is also a contributing factor.”
She was speaking yesterday during a three day capacity building training for 14 journalists who are part of the Guild of Social Affairs Reporters-The Gambia.
The project which is to be implemented in two years is funded by UNICEF at a tune of two million dalasis. It seeks to support media houses with the requisite resources to enhance their coverage of children and women.
Improving in reporting and professionalism in dealing with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children, she went on, are needed to strengthen the media contribution in influencing public opinion and nurturing child friendly social norms and values.
The initiative, she added, is to promote extensive balance and responsible reporting about issues on women and children. “This will therefore, minimise the negative reporting and bias on women and children.”
Lamin Fatty, national coordinator for Child Protection Alliance (CPA) said the three days capacity building for the Guild of Social Affairs Reporters is geared towards strengthening the media in terms of its engagement in dealing with the issues of children and women.
“Without doubt, we can all attest to the fact that in recent years, we have seen the media developing some quiet interest in reporting on issues of women and children. However, most often, what we see is the negative side. We have always seen women and children portrayed as victims of circumstances or how society victimises women.”
Sarata Ceesay, the speaker of the Children National Assembly of The Gambia said: “The cause of journalists in advancing the issue of women and children in The Gambia is absolutely vital. However, “you need to be highly informed and maintain consciousness about issues of women and children in order for you to promote extensive and responsible reporting on children and women issues.”
“Again, you will agree with me that not much coverage is accorded to women and children issues compared to other aspects of lives. Many times, news reports or stories about women and children in The Gambia are either about abuses or other negative issues. You need to move beyond that because they’re lot of positive stories about women and children across the country that the rest of the world should know about.”
Ebrima Sillah, minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure said: “The efforts to have the Guild of Reporters where all the media houses are present is a commendable one and the government of The Gambia associates itself with such laudable initiative. We are open for engagement and discussions to ensure that you have the necessary information with a view to reach out to your target beneficiaries more especially the children.”
At the policy level, Minister Sillah said, their ministry is currently reviving the Information and Communication Act of 2009. This, he stated, would be looking at child phonography issues in a more robust manner and to look at abuses on the internet targeting young people and also bullying using ICT and all other things that will ensure a safer environment for young people to realise their potentials in this country.
Gordon Jonathan Lewis, UNICEF country representative said: “The Guild of Social Affairs Reporters is not an association of journalists either is it a project, however, it’s an initiative that seeks to support media houses with the requisite resources to enhance their coverage of children and women.”
The Guild initiative, he said, is predicated on four fundamental pillars; a more balanced, responsible and ethical reporting on children and women; in-depth coverage of matters affecting children and women; more positive coverage of children and women; and a stronger voice for children and adolescents in the media.
“Let me underscore that it’s our collective responsibility to protect every child, everywhere, from harm and the risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. It’s also our responsibility to make sure that children are not mere spectators when we discuss issues that affect them. From legislation to policymaking and family decisions, their views must always be taken into account.”